The 5 Workplace Deal Breakers

Accountability Organizational culture Organizational leadership


Key Point: BambooHR has a very interesting info graphic (see below) outlining the results of a recent survey they conducted with more than 1,000 U.S. based employees of all ages and positions. I think this data is reinforced by numerous other studies and I want to focus on what the research defined as the “Top Five Deal Breakers.” These are the things that just drive employees crazy and end up impacting their decision to quit (sometimes while still on the job). And the five are:

 1. The boss doesn’t trust you.

2. Work expectations when off the clock.

3. Difficult co-workers.

4. Boss blames you for mistakes.

5. Work isn’t flexible.

Workplace Deal Breakers_v3


Of course, the common theme underlying these deal breakers is effective leadership. However, each of us has an individual, self-accountable role to play in helping the formal leadership develop and create an environment that minimizes the impact of “deal breakers.” I’m NOT taking leadership off the hook, but I think individuals may have more influence over the five deal breakers than they sometimes think.

1. Help the boss trust you.

We know from Dan Pink‘s research (along with other studies), that autonomy is vital for promoting personal motivation. And most bosses want “go to people.” Typically, when these reliable people make a commitment, you can count on them meeting it. The more we demonstrate our ability to meet (and ideally even or occasionally exceed) our obligations, the more trust we will engender. So be accountable, step up and communicate progress along they way. Don’t expect your manager to mind read. Some managers can’t let go regardless and become micro-managing control freaks. What YOU and I can control is our personal brand as a trust generator.

2 and 5. Work expectations when off the clock/Work isn’t flexible.

The more you can get clarity on the results you’re responsible for, the more you can manage your time and how time is used to manage you. Try and move the discussion with your direct leadership AWAY from time, and instead aim focus at result deliverables. Supervisors that measure you almost exclusively based on how much time you put in versus results are likely more into using that medium for personal control and/or assurance. It’s a bogus replacement for defining clear expectations and results. On the other hand, don’t use time as an excuse for your inability to deliver. (“Sorry… I was on vacation and left before I met a commitment you needed finished”).

3. Difficult co-workers.

You are going to be at every place you wind up working at. There is no place to escape, and I guarantee, difficult co-workers will be there to join you. The key is to develop your emotional quotient (EQ) and a set of personal tools to learn how to deal with difficult co-workers. If you can learn how to constructively confront the challenging and even destructive behavior of others, it will be a valuable life long skill. Lead from how you choose to deal with these problematic folks. This includes the skills of reframing, crucial conversations, STP and more. Develop a complete and ever evolving tool kit you carry and use daily.

4. Boss blames you for mistakes.

A blaming boss versus a coaching boss is a very challenging situation. If you have a boss that tends to lean towards blame, my experience is that it is unlikely you can do much to change this. Often this kind of boss is coming from a position of personal weakness, so my best advice is to find a way to get a new boss. The best tactic to minimize damage caused by blaming discussions is to redirect the blaming and finger pointing to focusing on the process, situation, and issue. Take personality judgment off the table as much as you can.

Character Moves:

  1. Remember as an individual employee you personally have more control over the five deal breakers than you think. If you’re a leader, know where you are on minimizing these deal breakers in your work group.
  2. Note that the summary line in the info graphic above is great advice and guidance for all organizations.

No deal breakers in The Triangle,


Published and edited by Garrett Rubis

One Millennial View: Work flexibility/off the clock work expectations are the deal breakers that really shine in this list for me. I’m fortunate to have a trusting boss and when it comes to frustrating co-workers, I think we’re closely removed enough from college group projects where we remember how to suck it up and “fake smile” through working with weak, or discouraging links… “Get the job done, shovel petty personal differences away.” Most of my friends working for progressive, profitable, and desirable companies have extremely flexible (sometimes enviable) work schedules… I recently had a business coffee, before her workday started, with someone who works for a very prominent sports network. Was it cool that she took an extra 30 minutes with me instead of reporting to the studio? Yes. Because she knew her objectives, and her bosses are confident she can get them done. If she happened to have a more specific call time that day, it would be understandable that she’d have to boogie back for that. Deadlines and responsibility often vary day to day, and realistic companies know that. I’m always aiming to work for an organization that appreciates my contribution/value over pinpointed minutes I spend staring at a computer screen. I’m also always willing to put in the extra time as needed.

– Garrett Rubis